Research at NCAD

At NCAD our research is conducted both into and through the making, study, and education of art and design, recognising that these fields are dynamic and changing. As a community of makers and researchers we are connected and collaborative. We forge sustained and thoughtful partnerships across academic, cultural, commercial, government and third sector contexts which reflect the unique value of our inter and transdisciplinary approaches to research. Research informs all aspects of our curriculum and helps us to maintain the relevance and purpose of our teaching. It demonstrates our commitment to the fact that art and design bring tangible, positive benefits to society and the economy. We put considerable effort into making our research public in diverse arenas, seeking opportunities to share it with others outside our specialist fields of expertise. Our research plays a prominent role in Ireland’s creative culture, it contributes to public understanding of the critical issues of our time, and has broad effects both within and beyond the creative and cultural sectors. We welcome the diverse range of individual interests and practices found within our community of researchers, with existing and emerging strengths in the following areas:

Sustainability, Circular Economies & Environmental Futures

NCAD researchers articulate the critical value of creative practice and sustainable innovation to our shared environmental futures. Our work addresses climate emergencies at global and local scales, from designing more sustainable medical devices for the circular economy, building capacity to develop the future of circular supply changes in the fashion industry, and creating space for environmental recovery, exploration and behavioural change within our Dublin 8 community at NCAD Field.

Taskscaping* in NCAD FIELD, May 5th, 2022. Photo: Gareth Kennedy *Taskscape is from anthropologist Tim Ingold where we privilege and acknowledge the human and non-human practices and agencies that make a place in lieu of the more optic-centric term of 'landscape'.

Healthcare, Wellbeing and Medtech Innovation

NCAD is shaping the future of human-centred research and care in health services through innovation and partnerships grounded in both design-led and contemporary artistic approaches. Our evidence-based, human-centred design approaches create novel product-service systems which deliver improved outcomes for patients and health care professionals alike, evidenced through projects including the design of realistic surgical simulators to support surgical skills curriculum at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and co-designing support tools for stroke survivors with the Mater Hospital. With partners such as the Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing, we explore the potential of contemporary artistic practices to bring new perspectives and experiences to health care settings and environments, including engagements with patients, visitors and staff.

Students in the MSc Medical Device Design programme collaborate with the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) to develop task trainers on which trainee surgeons can practice procedures.

Collaborative Practices

Our research considers how connected and collaborative practices interrogate the traditional relationship between universities and our communities. Through long-term engagements with community partners and collaborators in a range of settings, including Rialto Youth Project, Robert Emmet Community Development Project, the Central Mental Hospital, and Fatima United, we engage with complex social and political issues on a deeply local level. Through social design partnerships with organisations including Dublin City Council BETA, Smart Dublin, and A Playful City, we experiment with new ways to imagine our communities and our role within them.  We advocate for the value of participatory practices based in art, design, visual culture and art education to address systemic power relations and envision livable, socially sustainable and inclusive futures.

Students participate in the collaborative development of public art pedagogy as part of PARTGO, an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership in collaboration with the Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, and Turku University of Applied Science, Turku.

Material Cultures, Physical & Digital Making: Heritage & Futures 

NCAD has long been home to makers and thinkers, who contribute to a rich, diverse understanding of materials and making.  We explore possibilities for contemporary practices that both draw on, and depart from heritage practices, developing new materials, methods, products, and contexts that redefine our understanding of cultural histories and creative futures. We advocate for the future vitality of makers, their networks, and their audiences, and we steward an unparalleled research collection on Irish visual art and design within The National Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL). 

A selection of photographs and documents from the Women Artists Action Group (WAAG) before their digitisation, National Irish Visual Arts Library.

Future Teaching Practices, Student Culture/s and Pedagogies 

Across each of our schools we recognize the overlapping and intertwined engagement between teaching and research, creating space for new language and models of inclusion, access and care that are central to evolving pedagogical practice. Our research considers the diverse ways learning occurs both within and beyond classrooms, studios, community and industry settings, including models of practice such as The Change Lab, which fosters a space for student teachers to explore the social, ethical and cultural dimensions of their practice as artist-researchers within a gallery setting, and PARTGO, an Erasmus+ project exploring new methodologies for integrating public art and public engagement skills into curriculum.

Artist-teachers undertaking the Professional Masters in Education activate NCAD Gallery as a testing ground to critically map their work on to the current pedagogical shifts in Visual Art post primary curriculum reform as part of The Change Lab.

Critical Technologies, Human Interfaces & Hybrid Objects

In our hyper-digitised environment, we critically examine entrenched and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, the blockchain, and online social networks, as well as the contexts from which they emerge. Through approaches which are based both in making and theory, we interrogate our future as hybrid objects existing in converging physical and virtual realities.

BMd in process. Photo: berte & harmey (2021)  Artists berte & harmey undertook an NCAD Gallery Research Residency in 2021, developing the Dublin version of their Nul Punt Wolk mapping project. Nul Punt Wolk refers to the point clouds of LIDAR data which berte & harmey use to generate a series of Bare Maps, physical visualisations of urban space stripped bare to their underlying terrain. Photo: berte & harmey (2021)

Structures, Systems & Power

We recognize the social and political structures which contribute to systems of knowledge production which have historically privileged university settings. In response, our research seeks both to identify and rupture sites of learning and cultural production–including but not limited to the classroom, studio, archive and museum–offering resistances and alternatives to prevailing imperialist and neoliberal logics, and challenging the conventional boundaries of how we define knowledge.

Sarah Pierce, Shelter, Bread & Freedom. Remote readings held in People’s Garden, Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photo: Alice Rekab.

Gender, Identities & Cultures

We develop reflective and radical visual, textual and performative social languages to express the evolving relationship between genders, sexualities, cultures and identities. Our research is grounded in intersectional approaches, and rooted amongst feminist epistemologies, queer histories and embodied experience which claim space for the histories and futures of diverse identities across modes of cultural production.

Artist Louise Walsh opening a conversation with photographer and cinematographer Tzeli Hadjidimitriou at the 2022 Lesbian Lives Conference.